Hey, guys! It’s Monday, so it’s time for a Muse! And it’s also October 30th, which means it’s just about time for NaNoWriMo!

First of all, though: Happy Halloween to everyone! Well, I guess mostly our American listeners, since apparently the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to this most awesome of holidays. Guys. Dressing up. Trick or Treating. Scary things! The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE HALLOWEEN, PEOPLE?!

*cough* Sorry. I love Halloween. And I’m deeply unhappy with the fact that, because of my current living situation, I can’t go all out like I want to. Also… I have no friends within event-sharing distance, so that also puts a damper on things. But it’s OK. I shall persevere!

I shall also head to Target on Wednesday and buy candy because it’ll be on sale and because it’ll be the first day of NaNo, and I always allow myself candy and snacks during NaNo.

Oh, that seems like a natural segue into NaNo! Once again, let’s talk about NaNo set-ups. You know… getting that writing spot set up so you’re ready and raring to go when the day comes (you know…Wednesday) to begin churning out that 50k. Because… you do know it’s best to get as far ahead as possible in the early days, right? Shit is always going to go down, and if you’re American, you know that last week of November is terrible for sitting down to focus on your writing, even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day. Plus, that second-week slump is real.


So. Here are some things I’ve learned during all my years of NaNo:

  1. If you’re a plotter, plot. If you’re a panster, pants. NaNo is NOT the time to try a new style.
  2. Set up your writing space and KEEP IT SET UP. Don’t give yourself any excuse to get up and do something else.
  3. If sprinting works for you, sprint. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t sprint just to get the word count up. 50k of nonsense really isn’t going to help you. (If you want to sprint, has a free sprint thingy.)
  4. If you absolutely need to edit in order to keep writing, limit yourself to the last page you wrote. No more than a few hundred words. I understand that editing slows you down, but if not editing is going to slow you down even more, edit smart.
  5. Be willing to break the rules if that’s what helps you. Need to work on multiple projects? Do it. Need to work on an old project? Do it. There are no NaNo police, guys. The point is to get writing.
  6. If writing with other people helps, WRITE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. If it’s just distraction, don’t write with other people.
  7. Turn off the internet, especially if you’re prone to distraction. If you sit down and actually focus on writing, 1700 words won’t take too long. If you allow yourself to be distracted, you turn NaNo into an all-day, every-day affair, which it doesn’t have to be.
  8. Let yourself have treats. (That candy I mentioned, for example.) Create some reward systems to push for, as well. We all respond better to the carrot than to the stick. And, plus, there’s no reason to punish yourself. Punishment doesn’t help creativity (I mean… unless you’re into BDSM, or something. In which case, does that make the stick… the carrot? I need to ponder this.), and creativity is what we want.
  9. Above all, DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Writing more is the goal. Even if you don’t follow the rules, you win if you write because you’re one step closer to completing your project.

So. That’s it for me. I’m The Lady C over at NaNo if you want to be my buddy! Come watch me not follow my own rules, lol.



Shakespeare Saturday: Pictures!

Hey guys! Welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday! Tis I, C! The overwhelmed by NaNo being so close! I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s like, “Ahhh! It’s here!” So I thought today I’d take it easy on you and show you pictures!

Pictures of Shakespeare works!

So, it turns out the Victorians were obsessed with basically creating picture books out of Shakespeare plays. Because I mean… who wouldn’t be? Plays need that visual element to really come to life, and if you can’t get to a theater, pictures are definitely the next best thing.

So go ahead, take some time off from NaNo Prep, and look at some Shakespeare pictures!

I’ll be back Monday for one last “AHHHHHHH!” before NaNo!


Boozy Books: Americanah

Hello! It’s me, A! How on Earth did it get to be Friday? I completely lost track of this week… Which is why I’m currently in the process of making the Halloween costume I plan to wear to a party tomorrow. *Grumble* Jk, it’s gonna be great!

Anyway, in the spirit of continued costume procrastination, here’s Boo-zy Books!

This week I finished Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. I wrote about a Ted Talk I watched the author give a few weeks ago. It was that speech that spurred me to pick up one of Adichie’s novels. I loved her personality and her style of speaking, and I’m happy to report that that charisma is reflected in her beautiful writing. 

 Americanah is a story of the immigrant dream, the strength of love, and the struggles of overcoming societal constructs of race and class. Adichie’s novel takes turns following the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, a pair of Nigerians who struggle with identity as they make their lives in the United States and England, respectively. 

The pair fall in love in secondary school, but as the pursuit of overseas degrees separates them physically, the pursuit of life in the face of the immigrant struggle tears them apart completely. The story is expansive and yet incredibly detailed. It is dark and full of the hard truths of racial and class differences, and somehow gentle in it’s treatment of the characters. It is also balanced by perfectly crafted humor. Read it. It’s so full of life and truth and wisdom.

I honestly don’t have a pairing ready for this book. It was deeply engaging and I was too absorbed to figure out what to drink. So, you know, just pick something that will quench your thirst. It’s a really big book, full to the brim with its complexity and wonderful characters so if you dive in as I did, you’ll kind of forget to eat and drink… Maybe a nice light cider. I like ciders. And I feel like the tart, crispness would appeal to Ifemelu as well.

Back to costume making!

See you Sunday.


Monday Muse: A Good Day

I had a good day the other day.

I also had a bad day the other day, but given my own issues, that’s not really a surprise. Extended periods of isolation always cause bad days, and with the BF out of the country for work, I’m by myself most of the time.

So let’s focus on the good day.

I’ve been building a world for a couple years now. After years of reading Malazan, ASOIAF, and pretty much anything Brandon Sanderson, I decided I needed to see if I could replicate some of the amazing detail in their worlds. OK, so Westeros is not actually as detailed and deep as the other two, but it’s still well-developed and a good example of using history to build a world. Which is definitely something I enjoy doing. I have several worlds based on or in history.

But that isn’t what I wanted to do with this world. I wanted something built from scratch. Obviously, it would be influenced by this world, by details I know and things I’m interested in, but I didn’t want it to be a fantasy corollary of something, like ASOIAF and Medieval Britain. I’d been playing around with a theogony for a while, with twin creator gods based on balance creating a third entity and thus bringing chaos into the universe. Originally, I wanted to play around with the twins and their relationship with their sister, but eventually, I realized having that sister create her own planet would be so much more interesting.

After all, that planet would reflect all the chaos inherent in its creator.

So, Esmeihiri was born.

On to that good day. I want to keep it brief since I spent so much time telling you that I wanted to build a world, and if I keep it brief I’ll avoid going into massive amounts of detail about that world. Detail I am 100% sure none of you really want to read about.

I have officially named all the biggest nations, created a character bible, and a worldbuilding tome! I sat down the other day and put it all together, and it was such an amazing feeling to have it all done! I’m in possession of a political map and a geographical map (though I still have to finish up that political map), a slowly developing cast of characters, and a few subplots as well as a massive overall arc.

Things are moving apace. And now I have a place to gather it all. It’s like an Esmeihiri Atlas!

That was my good day.


Shakespeare Saturday: Triggered

Hey everyone! It’s me, A, back from another accidental hiatus due to the fact that keeping track of days is not my forte… Anyhoo, it’s Shakespeare Saturday!

Today, Newsweek posted an article that couldn’t be a better fit for our little blog if it tried. The article in question is titled: “Shakespeare for Snowflakes? Famous Plays Come with Trigger Warnings at Cambridge University.”

Ok, what?? Yeah, it’s exactly what you think it is. Shakespeare’s 400 year old plays – with which most of the English population is preeetty familiar – are being presented to classes with the equivalent of a ratings system. How is it possible people are getting offended by Shakespeare, but wanna-be politicians can admit to sexually assualting women and nobody gives a shit? 

Nevermind that the word “snowflake” has itself become a trigger for me, this is the biggest bunch of cockamamie nonsense I’ve ever heard of. And this is happening at Cambridge??? 

I’m at a loss for words.

*Blows raspberry* 

*Curls up in blankets and pops in DVD of Hamlet*


Boozy Books: Uh… About That

I can’t recommend anything for the book I’m reading. Not because it’s bad or doesn’t have a great pairing (it does), or anything; I’m actually just beta reading something right now, which means the book just isn’t available for pairing.

I promise to get back on reading and pairing as soon as possible, though. I’m also still re-reading Mansfield Park with a focus on its anti-slavery message (though it’s kinda evolved into admitting I was totally wrong about Fanny and owe her an apology), but I already did that, so… yeah.

I’m also bored out of my mind because the BF is in China for another week, which means it’s just me and the animals until then. While I enjoy the ability to do everything on my own schedule and eat all my favorite foods, my basic system at this point involves the other half, so I have no idea what to do with myself. You’d think I’d take the opportunity to write, but with NaNo coming up, I’m trying to get this beta-ing situation finished so the author has ample time to do his thing before publishing.

Also, I enjoy reading. I feel like, as much as I do it, I’m not doing it enough.

Anyway, I promise I’ll have something to pair next time. Until then, you should totally go through some past Boozy Books! There might be something in there you haven’t read before (probably from A; I like to pair the classics, myself).


ps- If someone asks you to beta and you have time, just say yes! (Same as if you’re a god.) Close reading is always fun and you’re helping a fellow writer.

Monday Muse: Writing Isn’t Just Drafting

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a slow writer. I started drafting Liar (Lucky) way back in February, minus the first few hundred words, which I had done last summer before I’d decided I wanted to continue with the project. If I’m lucky, I’ll have the first draft done by the end of this year. But as I am C and not Lucky, there is a very good chance it’ll be until next February until it’s done. It just seems to take me about a year to get a draft done.

This is because, unlike many writers I’ve come across, writing leaves me drained. Well, more to the point, drafting leaves me drained. It’s like having a gas tank, you know? I fill it up and then burn it in order to put pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to keyboard), leaving that tank empty. I’m not someone who gets energized by the act of creation. I don’t fall into the writing zone, where the hours pass and the words pile up because I’m so deeply into creating, I don’t notice anything else. I am always–always–acutely aware of the fact that I’m writing, that I’m draining that tank and getting closer to needing to stop or I’ll be stuck by the side of the road.

The problem with being this way is that a lot of the advice out there seems more like the obnoxiously upbeat chirpings of a morning person than good, old-fashioned night owl cynicism. Write every day, put on music to get in the zone, write nonsense until it gets good, etc. All great, positive, upbeat, saccharine bullshit when it comes to people like me. Especially since it seems to come from the POV that the only writing that matters is the drafting and that you can only call yourself a writer if you draft every single day. Which is exclusionary AF.

But, you know what? Writing isn’t just drafting. And you don’t need to do it every day to be a writer. No, writing every day won’t make it easier to write every day. It doesn’t just become habit. I am not a perpetual motion machine. If I try to write every day, I’ll end up burning out. And I know there are people out there like that. I can’t be the only one.

Take a break. Don’t let those “write everyday” people let you feel guilty for needing some distance between yourself and the world of writing. And if you must do something every day, even thinking about your work or creating Pinterest boards count. You don’t need to read a novel looking for things you like and how to recreate them; just read the damn novel for fun. If you want to read with a view to improving your writing, go right ahead; just know that you don’t have to.

You’re not less of a writer because writing isn’t every single iota of your being. You chose to be a writer, you are a writer, but you are more than a writer. You are a person who is a writer. And if you need to stop sometimes, that’s cool.

I know I like getting away from writing. Sometimes a girl just wants to talk about history and politics.


Shakespeare Saturday: Halloween Approacheth!

Hey, guys!

OK, I know we kinda let you down on the major posts for this week. My fault. I have more time on my hands than A, so I definitely should have pulled something together, but it is what it is. I promise not to let this happen again next week, so that will hopefully be enough to make up for our gross negligence.

Now. Today is Saturday. I could have done this later, but I figure we’ve left y’all hanging long enough.

So. You guys know how much we love Shakespeare here at le Cactus. And we also love Halloween. So the chance to combine the two is always fun. I know I like the idea of dressing in all black and carrying around a skull. It’s easy, I can do it quickly, and I don’t need friends. Which is good because those are thin on the ground around here.


Anyway. Check out some suggestions for Shakespeare Halloween costumes here and here. Or search the internet! I’m sure there’s tons of ideas out there!


Silly Sunday: Late Victorian Screw-Ups

OK, hi! Hello! Ciao! Merhaba! More hellos.

So, today is Sunday. That means it’s time for something silly. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of silly in my feed, so…

How about a cool history lesson?

I don’t know if you know this, but the Victorian’s had some weird ideas about behavior. Some people wouldn’t even say the word trousers, preferring to call them the “southern necessity”. And Victorian men found table legs so provocative, they covered them all the time. It was a weird time.

Don’t mess up. Read this: Victorian Etiquette Screw-Ups.


Shakespeare Saturday: Sir Ian on Lear

Hello friends! Welcome back to Shakespeare Saturday. This week I ran across a lovely little piece posted by the BBC, and that will be today’s focus.

The article contains exerpts of an interview with Sir Ian McKellen. It gives us the bare minimum in quotable quotes, but the topics it covers are exceptionally interesting. From Sir Ian’s admission that there are few years left for him to tackle live theatre and perhaps fewer Shakespearean roles left for him to explore to his personal goal to be Lear and not act Lear, this piece is as revealing as it is short.

It’s a quick read that I hope all my Shakespeare-ophiles will take a glance at.


Until next time!